Sunday, 21 December 2008



The Folk Implosion was a much underrated side project.  In some ways it can be seen as Lou Barlow’s Style Council, which would make Sebadoh his version of The Jam while God only knows what Weller’s version of Dinosaur Jr is.  And I don’t think that is too radical an opinion to hold being that both spin off bands still hold great songs akin to those of the main going concern, its just they now come laced and greased with a nice range of extras.

This is the second Folk Implosion album.  Released in 1997 it came post the notoriety that came with their contribution to the Kids soundtrack and just as the world was catching up with haunting scream of Slint, Folk Implosion seemed to suddenly drop that element in an effort to keep to their own agenda.  That said “Insinuation” maintains that type of measure in authoritative fashion still scaling former heights.

Dare To Be Surprised is perhaps one of the last great pop albums from the post-grunge era of US indie rock.  Balancing both the sonics and songwriting it’s a big achievement.

There is a cute urgency from the off as Barlow chisels a speedy vocal onto “Pole Position” before a tasty series of guitar noodles over a basic drum beat immediately adds an exciting pace to proceedings couple with a killer hook and chorus.

From here the record takes things at it’s own pace bubbling and percolating along in an angular motion.  And Barlow’s voice is perfect for such atmospherics as the wonderful drifts off in fantastic directions.

Dare To Be Surprised offers a satisfying amount of variety.  With “Checking In” the act is downright trip hop and mellow seriously channelling Barlow’s tender side while delivering a bassline that feels like being in the desert.  Nice rhyming scheme too, smooth.

Unsurprisingly a number of tracks do sound like Sebadoh including “That’s The Trick” which arrives with guitars that sound like moving furniture followed by a big of a shout to emphasise the chorus.  Then “Ball & Chain” serves up much the same offering in a grand, slow tempo pop song with a killer hook that would not have been out of place on Harmacy.

“Burning Paper” arrives as another sweet and tender expression of yearning similar to “Checking In” and then in typical lo-fi fashion the band promptly includes “(Blank Paper)” which sounds like an early instrumental demo working of the track.  Now that’s pretty slack.

Something that is noticeable is the manner in which the vocals/lyrics are delivered.  On tracks such as “Cold Night”, “Fall Into November” and “Barricade” they are almost nursery rhyme, even occasionally cheesy.  There is real sprite to this apparent found freedom.

The record closes with “River Devotion” which really does sound like the type of song you might hear during the closing credits or montage of an upbeat movie.  Ordinarily I might suggest that be a bad things but not this time.

This is a genuinely understated masterpiece worthy of rediscovery the next time you need some soul.

Thesaurus moment: score.

Sunday, 14 December 2008



As a Bukowski scribed sample of Mickey Rourke drawling in Barfly opens “Nothing No More” it captures one of my all time favourite quotes about people – “I just seem to feel better without them around.” The astute use of this statements add a whole new level to the pummelling assault that is Extreme Noise Terror revealing depths that are not distinguishable on the surface. These samples are littered all the way through the course of this album.

Peel approved and endorsed, ENT have always lingered on the fringes of greatness as much as they linger on the fringes of society. Perhaps best known for their association with KLF and attack on the Brit Awards in 1992 (particularly upsetting Trevor Horn in the process) ENT are owned by the metal crowd which begs and probably answers the question as to why this band does not appeal to a Melt Banana either. Despite the two bands’ output not being wholly different, the reality is the uniform is just wrong.

Over the course of nineteen tracks ENT do what they are best at: pummelling the senses and spitting out crazy instructions in the least vocally coherent fashion known to man. To say to this is a real rush is a ridiculous understatement as on the right day in the correct frame of mind this is as exhilarating as music gets.

Hailing from Ipswich, home of the prostitute murderer and quite frankly the cheesiest football club in the country, that kind of rural home vibe rubs off in the outback goofiness of this record compared to these times. This ain’t what the cool kids are listening to but when was a track called “Rat Hell”?

The day I purchased this CD I bought it with view to impressing a Chinese lady I was meeting for the first off the back of her Gumtree. As I stood outside Karen Millen at Covent Garden awaiting her arrival I patted this CD in my pocket and pondered “this will serve me well all right.” Forty minutes later after she had failed to turn up my arse was out of joint, which is pretty much the sensation you are left with coming away from this record. She turned up in the end, which like ENT, is better late than never.

Thesaurus moment: devastation.

Extreme Noise Terror
Extreme Noise Terror live
Osmose Productions
Power It Up

Saturday, 13 December 2008



In many ways Kool Thing was the first Sonic Youth swing at scratching the mainstream.  Now on a major label their music gained real push.  And the results were infinitely worthy.

Kool Thing is an exhilarating and pulsating jaunt.  It is also quite droll and surface sarcastic as the band exhibits an immediate knowing on arrival at the big stage, the show.

This is a Kim song with a message (as most of hers tend to be).  It came from an interview she conducted with LL Cool J for Spin magazine in which the pair clashed.  Going into the interview supposedly she was a fan but then it transpired they had nothing in common personally or professionally.  She liked The Stooges and he liked Bon Jovi.  She was a boy, he was a girl.  Then we really went did it by stating “the guy has to have control over his woman”.  Basically she could only conclude that the New York rock and rap scenes “might as well exist on different planets.”  Enter Chuck D to make amends who just happened to be at Greene Street studio when required.

The guitars are positively tethered.  In other words just as they begin flying, a jarring tug on the strings is made creating a crunching response from the guitar akin to a screaming animal.  This is what makes the Sonic Youth sound so inventive and uncomfortable.

With genuine bounce the song is actually pretty breezy considering the aggression attached to the lyrics and meaning.  And when Chuck D drops in with a few wise words heard by an indie audience he might as well have been Louis Farrakhan.  The conversation sculpted between them during Kim’s spoken section is equal part awesome equal part cringe.  That said her closing spoken declaration of “when you’re a star, I know you will fix anything” is exceptionally sarcastic.

And with that the song flies to an amazing climax.  This is four minutes of near perfection.

In addition to the video featuring a purring Gordon looking alluring while playing with a cat (as opposed with her original designs on dressing like a tooled up Black Panther), the song both gained and lent real cred appearing in Simple Men by Hal Hartley.  Arriving at the one hour, four minute and forty eight second mark a frustrating Martin Donovan emerges from his pick up kicking his baseball cap screaming “I can’t stand the quiet!”  This leads to an internal shot of a bar where first Elina Lowensohn dances ferociously to the track as she is slowly joined by Bill Sage and Donovan followed by Karen Sillas and Robert Burke as at that exact moment the coolest people on earth danced undisrupted onscreen.  Then one fast cut later the same characters sit discussing Madonna exploiting her sexuality in an exchange not necessarily essential to the plot.  This was it, as good as things got in a superior era.

Remaining loyal to New York the band covers “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” by the Neon Boys on the b-side as they rev up early music and words from Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell.

Thesaurus moment: imperturbable.

Thursday, 11 December 2008



Cracks In The Sidewalk was a six band six song twelve inch compilation put out by New Alliance for its first release in 1980.  New Alliance was the label set up in California by Mike Watt and D. Boon from the Minutemen with their friend Martin Tamburovich much fuelled by the DIY ethos of neighbours SST Records.  Indeed this selection features a number of acts that either had or would have records released on the label as well as featuring artwork by Raymond Pettibon, Greg Ginn’s brother.

Similar to another New Alliance compilation Chunks, this record is best known for being the home to “Clocked In” by Black Flag which for years was a staple in their set and indeed what Henry Rollins recollects as being the first song he sang with the band.

Cracks In The Sidewalk appropriately opens with the Minutemen being the first band to appear on the label’s first release (it being their label after all).  “9.30 May 2” is the expected exciting clash of Captain Beefheart construct and Wire efficiency.  Barely longer than a minute D. Boon gets in some solid yells as it all bubbles along nicely eventually asking the question: “what does America mean to you?” to the response “America means everything to me”.  This is not them speaking with their own voices.

With that follows the aforementioned “Clocked In” before Saccharine Trust drops in with “Hearts And Barbarians” which houses a heavy bassline sounding like an Australian/mockney version of the Dead Kennedys exhibiting concerns about the end of the world.  The literal take on lyrics is refreshing and wonderfully verbal.

The second side begins with the warped stylings of Kindled Imagination who offer a minute of rattles and childish gestures with “Cowboy & Indian Scene”.  It’s a very frustrating sound.

Things remain warped with Artless Entanglements offering some kind of No Wave free jazz in the form of the horror show that is “How’s The Blood Taste?”  It is very much the sound of somebody out of their mind attempting to assault while barely being able to insult you.  The screams are audible but the aggression unmeasured and unlikely to be assumed.

Sharp Corners close the compilation with an equally free jazz feel exhibiting a lightweight take on James Chance serving to infuriate anyone not in on the joke.  Horns are played like birthday treats.  It’s a broken scene.

I love this record.

Thesaurus moment: pavement.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008



If you have ever laughed at a Derek And Clive record/routine you will have acknowledged just how funny and satisfying swearing and being crass can be. In times of such hellacious judgement and subtle political correctness squashing almost every form of art containing an element of edgy humour or anything that challenges the status quo, you just need to blow off steam and go all out to offend with view to weeding out.

When Bob Weston pointed out at ATP that the audience resembled an “indie rock Taliban” he was very much onto something, he was also probably wondering to himself “what are they hiding?” I sense your average guitar wielding may frown upon and fail to see the humour in such infantile musical exploits.

For a release to contain a “libel-free radio edit” this is generally a sign of good things in the bad taste stakes, an indication and suggestion of a person taking lyrical risks being playful in delivery.

Very rarely these days do you encounter releases that are enjoyable and challenging, that are genuinely likely to cause offence and sting with a true cavalier approach and attitude of being so carefree and callous? Ultimately Kunt (and Little Kunt) is only saying what we are thinking but delivering it with skill in a manner the majority of us could only dream of. This is visionary poetry.

Thesaurus moment: indelicate.

Kunt And The Gang

Tuesday, 2 December 2008



Succeeding where, say, Erase Errata failed, Mika Miko plunder through a barrage of Raincoats and Slits influenced sounds with the greatest of success able to achieve some kind of coherence that can so/too often alienate the listener from such base expressionate recordings.

As Mika Miko are fully aware, the introduction of saxophones into a punk song is a guaranteed short cut to post-punk cred and so as a result what we have here on number three of the latest edition of the Sub Pop Singles Club is a very deliberate and concise statement of affairs and nod to being a going concern.

In a climate where Magik Markers are able to get away with murder, here is what I would class a band that is a mid point between The Shaggs and Magik Markers, a comparison that would likely not be received very positively but said/stated with no insult intended. Hey, I could have said they remind me slightly of the band from Gene Simmons Rock School TV show.

By the time you reach the Black Flag cover on the flipside they have rendered the song unrecognisable causing me to question if it is even a cover at all. This is primal.

Thesaurus moment: instinct.

Mika Miko
Sub Pop

Monday, 1 December 2008



The Unnatural Helpers are a beautiful breed of hardcore influenced and garage band knowing rock stars. This flippant seven inch of four tracks is the second release of Sub Pop’s latest singles club which is already paying out dividends.

Reminding me of Some Velvet Sidewalk, this loose and dirty piece of punk exhibits how Sub Pop have always been able to continue to churn out with reckless abandon exciting punk bands that are one step above, having dined early on the fuzzy cheeks of Mudhoney and learned how to use their instruments in a manner that not only stings but it stabs as well.

Of the four tracks, all of which fail to break the two minute mark, “Connecting” (the shortest of them) is a prime slab of punk marching with the almost Mark Arm-esqe vocals leading the line, punch and piercing as the large hooks loom heavy, punching like a starving boxer fighting for a cheeseburger.

At a time when our lifestyles have caused every single second to have increased in value it is somewhat gratifying to have an act operating at a level of such efficiency.

I’d buy that for a dollar.

Thesaurus moment: economic.

Unnatural Helpers
Sub Pop

Thursday, 20 November 2008



The movie Kids terrified me.  It disgusted and repulsed me.  And it wasn’t so much the horrid actions of the characters, it was the attitude attached.  How could they be so proud of what they were doing?  Why did it leave feeling picked on?

For the longest time the film was not available in this country on video.  It was banned not that anybody really noticed.  Indeed other than the few hipsters that saw the film on release, it was one of those cases where the soundtrack was better known than the actual movie.

The first time I saw Kids was on a Saturday night in east London.  We were in town with Hirameka Hi-Fi recording their first single for Che Records offshoot Extreme Sports and Nick from the label had an American NTSC VHS of the film which we all sat down and watched.  Certain underage members of the band (the rhythm section) had already seen it and indulged in the junior hedonism while I just looked on horrified at the bratty advances of the participants.  Was this what kids were doing today?  Then afterwards Nick declared “that’s a powerful film”.  Really?

This is very much known as something of a Lou Barlow project, mostly/mainly using his Folk Implosion vehicle with John Davis as the band inhabits seven of the thirteen tracks.  Indeed it even spawned a “hit” in the form of “Natural One”.  Then in addition to that he revs up with the ferocious and noisier Deluxx Folk Implosion using “Daddy Never Understood” for the opening credits before using his own solo composition “Spoiled” for the closing credits.

The appearance/attendance of Daniel Johnston is a grand gesture.  It’s funny to note how similar his voice is to that of the annoying Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick).  The vocal chords of both creaky and high suggesting a lack of physical and emotional development somewhere down the line.  In much the same manner that Kurt Cobain wore a “Hi, How Are You?” t-shirt at the 1992 MTV Awards this was an olive branch being extended to bring a great hidden talent to attention.  And his two tracks here sat perfectly entitled “Casper” and “Casper The Friendly Ghost” seemingly in honour/tribute to the sidekick of the piece’s villain.  “Casper” feels particularly apt sounding drunk, damaged and dizzying all in one foul swoop.

When I travelled to California in 2003 this album was one of the priorities on my wishlist.  It’s time had passed and it was hardly any longer the epitome of cool but the emotions of the record remained important to me, right down to the colour scheme.  I hadn’t really cared for the movie but the concept was strong.  And for some reason at the time it felt that you couldn’t find the record in England for love nor money (which of course was nonsense).  I would buy a used copy on CD from a store called The Beat! in Sacramento for $8.99.  The locals around me said this was an album you could now find in the reduced bins but I couldn’t see it.  Had nothing been learnt?  Later during the visit I wound up in San Francisco one weekend sleeping on somebody’s floor while next to me lay a boring couple.  When I woke silently on the Sunday morning, with no other life around I took a swig of Jim Beam and masturbated.

The Folk Implosion is a great act.  Their music is played down and subtle but very affecting all the same.  There are huge atmospherics attached to what appear slow and simple gestures.  For me this was always what was great about indie in the nineties, people didn’t tend to say or do much but when they did it was all important and all exciting, cool by nature and swift in circulation.  The pair may not have been cool but they certainly sounded it.

It’s quite funny to contrast this album with what appears in the movie and on that note despite the abundance of hip hop in the film here the only offering comes from an act called Lo-Down who it appears were quite a mystery and never recorded ever again.  Surely an inside joke.

For me this record represents a very exciting and adds a gloss to a series of exciting memories.  I am so glad that this was the soundtrack even if Kids was not my life.

Elsewhere if you look hard enough on the internet you will come across an apparent two disc thirty nine track complete version of the soundtrack.  This includes three instrumental tracks by the Beastie Boys as well as songs used in the film by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins Average White Band, A Tribe Called Quest and Brand Nubian amongst others.  There are also eight addition Folk Implosion tracks including the three Unkle remixes as featured on the second “Natural One” CD single.

Jesus Christ, what happened?

Thesaurus moment: remembrance.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008



From time to time these days you will discover (rediscover) a band is still playing well after you had figured them to be long gone. My favourite example of this is Trumans Water who seem to appear every couple of years with a new record, doing a random show in town to celebrate and promote the fact happily acting as a timely reminder of how things can otherwise be.

As a similar example of this, today I find myself holding the new album by Beatglider, a band from Southend that was once almost part of a burgeoning lo-fi/post rock scene in Essex that was never allowed to get started (for various reasons).

Striding the fine line between post rock and shoegazing, this is an epic construction towering over twelve tracks that cohesively combine to make a sedate sonic elevation.

At a time when the (supposed) genre of post rock has mutated off in one direction to resemble the cuddly Sigor Ros and in another path the nastiness of Mogwai still prevails in the other version, there is distinctly still an audience looking to relish in such evocative and courteous expansive recordings. Perhaps this is the standing strong of the prog rock gene.

There are many influential sounds on show here. The more oblique of Lush’s output can be heard on “The Rattlesnake” while the occasional dipping in of vocals reminiscent of Syd Barratt give proceedings a slightly spooky tone (“Wasteful Is Love”). There are also many true moments of naïve glee echoing the meanderings and conclusions of Flaming Lips at their most stirring (in the form of closer “Natures Arms”). And “Where Time Stands Still” sounds like a cross between Snow Patrol and spaced out Pavement.

The highlight comes in “Wild Night” where an astute arsenal of instruments come together to echo all Chemikal Underground’s best hits squeezed into one composition. Suddenly Southend begins to feel/sound strangely Scottish.

This record represents victory.

Thesaurus moment: bespelled.

Enraptured Records

Wednesday, 12 November 2008



In the dim and distance past Marceline once bemoaned about the lack of reviews of musical acts with a name beginning with the letter “X”. Finally I have found an act with such a moniker and although the single was released early this year it has managed to become one of my favourite singles of the year.

With a name and song title that are truly worthy of underground credentials the tedious pounding of a drum accompanies a lengthy and sarcastic guide to exactly how to reduce the chances of being a terror victim.

For the longest time now I have been purchasing seven inch singles and as tangible music makes a last push for survival in the eleventh hour of physical formats being the main vehicle for recorded music, unfortunately the majority of the new bands posing as “indie” have been resoundingly substandard. Here most definitely is an exception.

This XX Teens single however has proved to be the exception displaying a nonchalant attitude of mock seriousness and a dark sense of humour that is really missing for underground music at these times.

A record that would not be unwelcome in The Fall’s back catalogue, the advice dispensed on offer ranges from the sensible to the absurd echoing those terrifying public service videos from the eighties that seemed to promise nuclear warfare next week and shot fear into the hearts and minds of so many impressionable children such as myself.

The world requires more records like this.

Thesaurus moment: evangelic.

XX Teens
Big Billy Records
Mute Records

Sunday, 2 November 2008



As soundtracks (and indeed scores) grow in stature and prominence as not only just a commercial outlet/cash in for studios and labels, the compiling and creation of soundtrack albums as the thinking man’s compilation has really become something of a work of art in itself. As Quentin Tarantino became one of the first people to most use dialogue snippets effectively in his soundtracks for Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction it was actually the soundtrack to another movie that he wrote that really elevated the soundtrack to a new level. Natural Born Killers really hit notoriety upon release in the UK, falling foul of recent outcries and legislation, which lead to the movie being banned from home video for several years. As the bootleg began to do the rounds, the movie only grew in more and more notoriety, a notoriety that has been rather questioned over the years. With a darker than darker reputation associated with it the soundtrack became on of the few things attached the movie a kid could get his hands on and when Oliver Stone called in Trent Reznor as music supervisor he really knew what he was doing in order to capture the atmosphere he wanted. And when it came to the soundtrack album Reznor really went to town and took his role super seriously. I cannot think of another soundtrack album before and since that sounds like this. Sure dialogue is more evident on soundtrack CDs than ever now but this is more than an album it is more a combination of a self contained modern orchestration or something of an industrial goth/grunge mixtape. Musically this is far from the best soundtrack album to ever grace music history but I really believe it to be unique in its construction and sheer freedom in its usage and connection to movie sound bites. It begins with an initial gripe however as per usual here is a soundtrack that omits (for various reasons) a track that was in the movie. In one of my favourite film music moments in the movie Mickey and Mallory leave the opening scene and enter the credits driving crazily in their car to the accusing strains of “No No Man Part 2” by the late legend Steven Jesse Bernstein. Had that song been present here this release would have taken one step closer to perfection. What the record instead opens with is Leonard Cohen and “Waiting For The Miracle” as the soundtrack perhaps takes its cues from the Pump Up The Volume soundtrack that adopted such a tactic. Regardless of the choice’s origins it is a spot on selection as Cohen’s haunting voice sets an eerie and dark tone to proceedings as if speaking on behalf of Mickey and Mallory in addressing their hopes and desires. Then it kicks off as Juliette Lewis (Mallory Knox) asks a hillbilly “are you flirting with me?” and L7 drop on the scene like a bomb with “Shitlist”. It’s the perfect synchronisation. Then the song ends and returns to the scene of the crime and more carnage from the natural born killers themselves as they run wild in the diner before heading out to the desert accompanied by the harmonica of Dan Zanes on the “Moon Over Greene County” that serves up an expansive vision and view of proceedings. The anger resumes as Patti Smith smashes out “Rock N Roll Nigger” in the most defiant and rebellious sense looking to upset and offend. Then in another bipolar stroke Mickey and Mallory exchange more sweetness to the strains of “Sweet Jane” by Cowboy Junkies. Without doubt a twisted pairing on all fronts. After this a curious nod is made to Bob Dylan and Duane Eddy before Reznor arrives full blown with “Burn” by Nine Inch Nails and a suitable soundtrack for a riot with its overt sentiments beginning with “this world rejects me, this world threw me away, this world never gave me a chance, this world gonna have to pay”. That’s Rodney Dangerfield parenting for you. Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr) arrives on the scene as he stirs up a furor as the murderous couple go worldwide and establish a cult fanbase of weirdos including Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) from Mad Men curiously. Then on top of everything else the listener has to suffer Patsy Cline. By now the record is beginning to resemble one of those book and tape affairs that you had as a kid when portions of the movie would be placed on cassette and you followed the plot through the book. The words “spoiler alert” had yet to be invented it would seem. One of the albums highpoints arrives as “Ted, Just Admit It” by Jane’s Addiction gets spliced in with Mallory instigating a sexual assault cum homicide as Perry Farrell declares “nothing’s shocking” as he heads to the warble of “sex is violence” coupled with the infamous Ted Bundy sample which all eventually arrives at a climax of Diamanda Galas’ crazy voice doing a crazy version of “I Put A Spell On You” as it leads into the eventual demise of Knox’s victim coupled with a Dave Navarro wig out. Its truly punishing as it all ends in gunshots and all boxes get ticked. Thankfully things calm down as the reflective coupling of “History (Repeats Itself)” by A.O.S. and “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails serve to prepare for the massacre that lay shortly ahead. From here things fail to improve as they mess with forces they should not be tempering and as one snake bites another further insanity ensues to a soundtrack from Barry Adamson as the pair of them eventually wind up in a high security prison vulnerable at the hands of Warden Dwight McClusky (a possible descendant of Mrs McClusky from Grange Hill). Adamson provides a beautiful accompaniment to the image of a dead mother being eaten by ants. To fully exhibit the experience of being in prison Reznor decides to bring in Dr Dre to represent the African-American gangsta population behind bars. Sign of the times. Pre-dating her own music career Juliette Lewis gets her first music credit down with “Born Bad” which pre-empts another attempted assault on her before all hell breaks loose in the prison to the sound of Jello Biafra and Al Jourgensen as Lard with “Forkboy” that sounds like the banging of prison cell bars and the thunderous emergence of rioting prisoners. For the longest time the “Batonga In Batongaville” speech was our favourite track as its masterful delivery by Downey Jr served to encapsulate the multifaceted appeal of the meal with its sense of drama, rebellion, urgency and absurdity rendering it far beyond hilarious as the early stages of media ridiculous were being ploughed as the live stream being displayed in the movie proved not far from the rolling news that has eventually arrived on our news palates. With the climax closing in Reznor serves up some ambient noise via Nine Inch Nails with “A Warm Place” as there is a call for calm. At the close Leonard Cohen returns to bookend proceedings with “The Future” and message of looking towards the future. Whether some kind of Clockwork Orange change of heart redemption has occurred is open to debate and this song explains the uncertainty of what lay ahead. From here tagged onto the end is “What Would U Do?” by Tha Dogg Pound, which kind of knocks the cohesion of the piece and almost feels like a contractual obligation that perhaps serves to cheapen the piece. Certainly the question of the title fits. With reflection this is a pretty fucking big soundtrack that in many ways works better than the actual movie itself does. It’s a shame more people didn’t take their cues from this piece of work and create their own masterpieces. Thesaurus moment: paradigm. Trent Reznor Nothing Interscope

Thursday, 30 October 2008



Recorded at the famous chem19 studio, there is a distinct Mogwai-esqe post-rock feel to this release that would have earnestly felt at home on the roster of Chemikal Underground when the label was at its height.

Perhaps more Explosions In The Sky than Mogwai, with the recent wet panting reception that Sigor Ros have rightly or wrongly received there is still more than enough desire and attention around for an act such as this, especially when those in the know will have written off and dismissed the genre a long time ago.

There is only so much that can be added to the atmospherics and ambience of post-rock but there is something truly Scottish sounding about this release curiously tickling memories of soundtracks from movies set in Scotland such as Restless Natives and Local Hero. Even more confusing when considering such soundtracks came from Big Country and Dire Straits. In other words, at times these guitars sound like pipes of bags.

There is still a real mystery surrounding Scotland to your average, considered Englishman. Against all the temper it is still, resentfully, a place of true beauty where the air, even if chilly, feels fresher and the people tougher. And on a good day, this is its score.

Thesaurus moment: tranquil.

The French Quarter

Tuesday, 28 October 2008



Here is an album by a band that I have been force fed by Stevo, which is pretty strange considering he has no idea what Pitchfork is. In a way I think he is just looking for a new Pavement.

Alas his search is not likely to end here as Deerhunter really do not tug at such heart strings; they barely tug at such shirt tails. You can see where the comparison comes from in the breezy and slightly wonk despatch of lines and energy but away from that there is an element of the band that suggests they maybe horribly devoid of song.

Deerhunter remind me more of shoegaze than lo-fi, of a swarming sheet of sound within which songs too often get lost and never found. The sensation is one of a foggy temperament and chilled times.

Microcastle has a lucid demeanour. Picking up on a strange sense of occasion, the background behind these songs are worrying ones, origins that do not sound invigorating, ones not conducive to a joy filled existence/experience. Then again early on into their career Blur sounded like this once.

Purposely odd and playing on it Deerhunter sport something of a strange and unique background making them (and this record) very much a product of their environment; which ultimately may explain why too often it sounds and feels like a whimper.

The ambience and stillness of this record suggests (maybe echoes) an existence originating from a slower pace of life, one away from grind and one very much geared towards survival set against old standards and conventions. There is a reason these people struggled to fit in.

With moments such as “Little Kids” a truly suffocating climate is captured where lush vocals combine with swarming strides of distorted guitar held subtly in the mix until it gradually reaches boiling point and consumes proceedings snuffing out all that came before it. Sadly such moments of illation are few and far.

In a time when the horrors of the world are more vivid and tangible than ever before with so many outlets and resources looking to dismay and distort the world for so many here is another piece of the action, a very personal account of a method of turning one person’s pain into another’s pleasure and treasure. This will not win a Grammy.

Thesaurus moment: dawn.


Sunday, 26 October 2008



“Teen Creeps” sees No Age at their fuzzy/distorted best washing over the listener with its plundering chord sequence and hoover sounding rebuttal. There is absolutely nothing subtle about No Age when they are in this kind of mood and it is quite possibly when they are at their best as the relentless approach to proceedings serves to be the aural equivalent of a mean face and angry expression. And this is coupled with nonchalant but direct vocals that sound slack but still affective.

There is a strange pulsing feel to “Teen Creeps” that reminds me of the theme music to Bret Hart in the WWF for some reason even though the Hart Foundation never got this dirty. As the drums begin to sound like falling cutlery and breaking glass there is a slight tone and urge of violence cleverly hidden in the track.

“Intimate Descriptions” on the opposite side sees No Age at their most awkward and annoying, delivering a dissolving buzz sound in exchange for a real song, providing the kind of hum a nation of post rockers almost killed music with a few years ago. Once the drums and vocals enter the equation a quizzical look arrives on the face of this listener as a disheartening lack of energy enters proceedings and fails to serve any real purpose or add anything to the day in general or at large.

So it’ll be back to “Teen Creeps” then.

Thesaurus moment: zing.

No Age
Sub Pop

Saturday, 25 October 2008



With a dark electronic intro of pulsing menace that would fit perfectly alongside a John Carpenter score to a Snake Plissken movie, before mutating into full blown cyber waves, there is a true apprehension to the sound of London’s Global Citizen of this release.

The band have been scouring the murky depths of the capital’s electronic/industrial underworld for six albums now gaining a true reputation for explicit and explosive output, producing a steady stream of material in an undaunted and jubilantly defiant fashion. As to where electronica ends and industrial begins is something of a darkened grey area and this would be the colour with which I would apply to the sound of Global Citizen.

Heavily influenced by exotic and futuristic Japanese culture, in a climate that so appreciates acts such as Ladytron and Client, Global Citizen sit comfortably with their peers delivering bulky rhythms very much reminiscent of the darker (and more interesting) face of Gary Numan with vocals delivered in an almost perverted curdling tone.

Having plugged away at the London scene for a number of years now, the visually arresting lineup serves up its latest release in the form of this four song CD that simmers with subtle menace, indulging fetish imagery and less than vanilla suggestion.

The aforementioned electronic sound of the band pulses with a bubbling beat which reminds me heavily of “Reptile” by Nine Inch Nails coupled with vocals delivered in a most swift Numanoid execution. Just what the title song is actually about is open to suggestion but it is definitely not for squeamish.

With beats that sound like bubbles, the dark pulsating electro soup of Numan inspired computer jams offers much to keep an army of black attired misanthropes happy for hours.

Thesaurus moment: Nippon.

Thursday, 23 October 2008



Sounding like a standard from a time bygone and a string intro that sounds directly lifted from “I Put A Spell On You” this is a sultry little number featuring two of the best voices in independent of the past decade delivered in a most complimentary of vehicles. In a world where people literally shit themselves over the horrible hole that Duffy is, here is the real deal.

Not since Nick Cave chose to duet with PJ Harvey have two indie singers been so explicit and artistically successful. Again with these two, much like the former you sense some kind of conjugal visit may have occurred at some point during the night.

It’s all about the strings that lend it the most classic of feels to the composition making it sound almost Bond theme-esqe. Neither Belle And Sebastian nor the Screaming Trees ever sounded like this which serves as a timely reminder of just how much of a classy outfit and act these two performers have matured into. It takes many years of life lessons to be able to find the confidence to truly take a risk such as this. Scotland and Seattle – they’re pretty much the same thing.

Of course this is not the first example of these two performing together, now on their album proper, but it is the latest and most definitely one of the most accomplished fruits of their labour.

Thesaurus moment: majestic.

Isobel Campbell
Mark Lanegan

Wednesday, 22 October 2008



As much as I try I just cannot bring it in myself to fully fall in love or fancy M.I.A. as artist or individual. From the off she has just been too self assured and now with this song/single she is now only just achieving such a level of quality that goes with such an esteem.

That aside this is a truly great song, easily one of the best this year by a mile. Immediately the elevated feel of the vocals enables the song tower over much around it and the guitar noodles that annoy all the way through the song gives it a pulse and energy all of its own. When the first gunshots ring out and the cash register (the “Jewish piano”) sounds a definite dark atmosphere is added proceedings (especially compared to the collapsing car sounds of the radio edit). This song is not about origami and the paper planes in question contain very expensive cargo.

Sadly then she goes and ruins it all with the silly little refrain of “M.I.A. third world democracy, I’ve got more weapons than the KGB, so no funny business” which would appear to only serve to empower the person delivering the message and absolutely nobody else. Guilty by association for being involved with that overhyped piece of shit film Slumdog Millionaire, this is such a frustrating song as it sounds so fresh and new but appears to do everything possible to sabotage and alienate the listener from jumping on it with both feet and full gusto. She’ll learn. Please lose the baggage.

Was that Mike D I saw in the video?

On the reverse (even though the labels are on the wrong sides) is the obligatory DFA remix that all hip bands have to have these days. With this remix DFA succeed in rendering this song in sounding like the theme music to some eighties BBC children’s TV show. That’s not necessarily good.

Thesaurus moment: contravention.

XL Recordings

Monday, 20 October 2008



Tricky doing Kylie? That’s a pretty good concept and definitely one that was always going to work. Much in the vein of his version of “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”, even though Tricky adds guitars to the cover, it remains a resoundingly electronic version produced by Bernard Butler from Suede. Whoops.

This is definitely a song that could be taken one of two ways. Had I not already heard the original I probably would have lent it more kudos but knowing what I do, the original version is never far from my mind or consciousness.

While the music hardly serves to thrill it is the strange reality of Tricky barely sounding as if he is on the track with raises the highest eyebrow. With weedy overproduced guitars seemingly the main difference to the music, the big if is what is Tricky playing at putting his musky voice so deep down in the mix? Are we supposed to think that he and the rent-a-voice doing all the works on the vocals are actually shagging?

Not before time the song is over and suddenly the guy sounds like a trick to me. This is music equivalent of a rub and tug. A bad one at that.

The “Bullion Mix” on the reverse serves to tweak my interest a bit more but by now he has failed the class.

Thesaurus moment: clanger.


Sunday, 19 October 2008



The debut record by Slint was released in 1989 and nobody bought it.  They put it out on their own label, which traditionally has always been a fatal decision.  It is the exception not the rule that sees self released albums picked up and purchased.  Musicians make music and people run record labels for a reason, there is an art in both.

In many ways Tweez feels the ugly sister to the unabashed beauty (and horror) that is Spiderland.  Despite being their first record it is usually the second a fan will ever hear.  And when they do, it comes as quite a shock/surprise as it bears only a striking resemblance to what the band eventually wound up sounding like.  Sure there is the fuzz from the distorted guitars and an almost spoken word delivery of vocals and lyrics but these songs are short, economic and basically they sound like King Crimson.

It’s funny to note that despite being three songs bigger, this album is actually ten minutes shorter than Spiderland as it fails to make even the half hour mark in length.  But who’s timing?  Who cares?

Produced by Steve Albini (aka “Some Fuckin Derd Niffer”), this record is striking and sharp, a much clearer link to their pasts than their future.  They’d done their duty with hardcore in both Squirrel Bait and Maurice and now was time to expand on their skills it what was moving organically.

The album is split between two sides: “Bemis” and “Gerber”.  And the song titles are the names of their parents save for the exception of “Rhoda” which was the name of Britt Walford’s dog.  For the record: “Ron” and “Charlotte” are Walford’s parents, “Nan Ding” and “Charlotte” are Pajo’s, “Carol” and “Kent” are McMahon’s and Warren and Pat are Buckler’s.

Then there is the cover featuring the Saab 900 Turbo, which looks like it is about to run you over.

It begins strongly with “Ron”.  As with everything the band seems to do it is an unconventional opening as a drenched and distorted guitar sound pours over proceedings before swiftly being reigned in by a metal manoeuvre and left to hang until it is cut altogether.  And this all occurs in the first sixteen seconds.  At this point a crucial moment occurs the voice of Brian McMahon (sound like Steve Albini) drops “Steve, these headphones are fucked up.  They’re only coming out of one side, like the… Should I just bear with it or what?  Shit.  They’re fucked”.  By mistake we get a classic moment in alt rock.

Then all hell breaks out as the song spins out of and into control as some kind of crushing funk with major punctuation marks grips things and keeps them in check as McMahon goes off on a menacing, spite laden rant seemingly in the name of vocals.  And then it is all over within two minutes.  Suddenly things will never be the same again.

Coming back to the names thing, Slint was actually the name of one of Walford’s pet fish as opposed to the common belief that it is a combination of slit and cunt or slut, bitch and cunt.  Seems things aren’t so nasty/hostile after all.

However maybe I spoke too soon as the slow metallic throws of “Carol” emerge complete with the sound of smashing shards coupled with screaming then silent vocals and complex time changes.  What is going on within their existence?

The title Tweez comes as a reference to Walford’s collection of tweezers.  Why was he doing with so many tweezers?  Why did he need them?  What were the roots of such a fetish?  Is this the music of deviants?

Tweez is a cold album with Steve Albini’s fingerprints all over it.  Often the record resembles something more Rapeman than the band that went on to make Spiderland.  And as a result occasionally tracks will feel that they have finished before they have even started.  Also the crashing/smashing effects framing proceedings on tracks such as “Carol” very much resemble the Albini mindset.  Hell, McMahon even sounds like him when “singing”, as the vocals are shot through some weird wire connection.

It is funny to note for what such a respected and pioneering alternative rock act this is, so many of the songs do open with a similar metal bombast (the most criminal being the two opening tracks “Ron” and “Charlotte” which could almost be incestuous relations).  Indeed there is quite a sharding metal sound to the guitars in general.  Thankfully this was a band that knew how to use it, to harness the rock for good and not evil even if it did result in lumbering and moments of feedback extension.  Who was in a rush anyway?

A weird highlight occurs with “Darlene” which I swear take the same line as “Where Are You Baby?” by Betty Boo.  I defy you to disagree.  However the accompanying tale of a broken relationship helps take away the sugar, shredding proceedings to death in a most meandering fashion.  The delicacy is luscious and lucid as the song gradually steps up a gear and aims straight for mute pay off.

Listened to closely this is a more varied album than face value suggests.  Sure it lacks the pomp of Spiderland but in “Kent” there is a track that suggests sights in that direction while the pounding “Warren” provides the hardest, most hardcore and frenetic moment.

All in all this is a very compact album.  More math rock than post rock, it is a band being expansive and experimental within the realms of motion and decipherable.

It’s a jam.

Thesaurus moment: inchoate.

Monday, 13 October 2008



In some ways sounding like a heroin afflicted version of Pulp, with “Colossal Youth” Young Marble Giants serve up a very dry and dour description of proceedings while still wearing sensible shoes.

With a throbbing pulse occasionally akin to a fun pack version of Suicide, the sole Young Marble Giants record is a very dark sounding affair, cagey as it is experimental.

Quite frankly one of the most dour records in history this album benefits from the strand of music that is The House That Kurt Built and the sad reality that away from anorak obsessives and beards just because of the Nirvana namedrop this is the only reason people will have ever heard of this record or this band.

Ultimately this is quite a bloody-minded record, tightly wound and mildly intense with it in that way only the scuzziest people at school would be. As a result the pace is slow and measured, intentional in its unease both in projection and listener reaction.

With jagged licks akin to Gang Of Four this was the sound of disenchanted Cardiff in the early eighties long before Torchwood came along to save the day and while the Soul Crew had aspirations.

At times the music is just strange. When proceedings overdose and overload on keyboards the resulting “The Taxi” sounds like a cross between a Tetris song and crazed amusement muzak.

The lyrical content is full of angst touching on death, drugs and exam results all wrapped in chip paper boredom. This is of course runs much against the sweet and pleasant tones of the actual vocal delivery thus making the experience that bit more disturbing.

Despite the impressive aspirations it is unfortunate to have to resign myself to the reality that this is not a record to maintain the attention. I have to admit for years I did not realise the song “Credit In The Straight World” was Hole covering the Young Marble Giants but you can see why Courtney chose to unleash it onto a world ripe for further disillusion.

A record only for the most patient and/or deranged of music followers. A false legacy has been attached.

Thesaurus moment: juvenescence.

Young Marble Giants
Rough Trade

Sunday, 5 October 2008



Complete with remix by The Vaselines on the b-side, here lies something of a subdued glam song echoing seventies fodder that would have been served for and purchased by my parents. It’s all bombastic in a budget way as every tradition instrument is thrown into the mix resulting in a kind of North of the border “All The Young Dudes” in not the most convincing of appointments.

Verging on some kind of misgiving euphoria the best thing about this record is how the verses remind me of The Auteurs and the choruses echo Teenage Fanclub at their most hook heavy and not necessary most subtle.

The involvement of Kurt’s favourites The Vaselines serves to leave me scratching my head as the additional of Moe Tucker-esqe drums and more intricate guitar parts used sparingly only causes me to wonder why they took this band under their wing.

I once new a girl in the year below at school called “Wendy.” She allowed us to use her self given nickname of “Wee” fully aware of the connotations that came with. She was cool but her chubby friend always seemed to be more keen when really it was her greasy other friend that caused most interest for me. Eventually she wound up with a ginger lad.

As to just who this release is aimed is something of a mystery to me. Scottish peoples no doubt.

Thesaurus moment: border.

Attic Lights
Island Records

Tuesday, 30 September 2008



Trying to make good, Make Model appear to be grafters on this appearance and very little else. Using the effect that makes a band sound as if they are playing through/down a telephone line, this band almost sounds like Bis being played at the wrong speed. If this is what the kids want then perhaps instead of serving this up, a branch should be extended to recommending those that came before in order to clear stock first.

I have to admit this is a confusing construction but one that is not entirely disagreeable, just one that struggles to appear purposeful. The belief (for me) was that Make Model were going to sound like The Delgados (before they came with strings attached) but instead it is a minor stomp with the female vocals that I would have expected to be in the forefront being most deftly switched to the background for groceries.

The b-side is entitled “Czech Neck”, an obvious reference to the students favourite. The mere reference alone hints at a superior sense of humour but the resulting track is sedate and without a tinge of jolly.

A few years ago I could see and imagine this band hanging around and comfortably slotting into the lo-fi DIY scene but as a scene barely exists anymore it is tough to imagine Make Model possessing any such desire to be so low on the indie rock food chain.

Right now as I write this there is a fox harbouring outside my window in the spacious building that is to become a supermarket. I would imagine Make Model are looking for similar growth and extermination.

Blame the accountants I say.

Thesaurus moment: delay.

Make Model
V2 Records

Friday, 19 September 2008



Released in 1997 this compilation pretty much represents the mindset of the moment.  Following up the equally cheesy original compilation Cult Fiction, with the Quentin Tarantino selected soundtracks of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction appearing in the racks chock full of obscure and weird sounding “lost gems” here was the opportunity for labels to jump on the bandwagon and cash-in breathing new life into passed over classics.  Fostered by the spirit of Loaded, lad culture, Trainspotting and the general optimism and musical backward glance of Britpop, these songs were generally where we wanted to be.

Collecting together twenty three tracks of movie music moments and TV themes here was a successful collision of kitsch with cool done in a beefed up manner and despite the packaging being cheesy, the goods held within were not.

All in all this is a pretty solid selection of songs mostly going with recognisable tunes, tracks that won’t fail and hits that don’t quit.  On the tracklisting coupled next to each title is the movie or advertisement that they come from.  Nothing’s subtle about this package.

The placement is key here.  Out of context many of these tracks would otherwise struggle to hold their own but offered here as part of this apparent movement it made sense.  Not that the album is excellent from the off…..

It begins with The Who and “The Real Me” from Quadrophenia.  There are better Who songs.  Then the album takes a real cheesy turn with the CCS instrumental cover of “Whole Lotta Love” followed by “All Right Now” by Free.  The latter song in particular haunts me off the back of its popularity with a certain friend at school that wouldn’t know good music if it fucked his arse.  That said he was the first of our gang to get his end away on a regular basis so with his Robert Palmer records and Dannii Minogue fixation I guess life was just trading off.

The tempo finally ups with the rejuvenated “Lust For Life” by Iggy Pop offered in connection to Trainspotting.  Then as a sense of euphoria grips proceedings up next is “Theme From The A-Team” by Mike Post.  Offered at full length the song seems funny, extended and overblown.  The once subtle guitar solos are no longer subtle or even bearable.  I pity the fool that bought this compilation.

Resuming the ruckus “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf and “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple follows seeming with the intent to turn the listener into their father.  Here are two tracks born to sit next to each other on a Top Gear compilation.  Petrol or diesel – who gives a fuck?

Another cover version arrives in the form of Echo & The Bunnyman’s take on The Doors’ “People Are Strange” from Lost Boys.  This was always a great track attached to a testing soundtrack.  It is very close to the original, subtly clothed.  And on the topic of cover versions also present on the disc is the Urge Overkill version of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” which for better or worse became their career high appearing in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction during a key scene/moment.

Keeping things cheery comes “Werewolves Of London” by Warren Zevon taken from The Color Of Money when quite frankly it might better be suited to John LandisAn American Werewolf In London.  Essentially this is just a colourful bar song.

And with that the record finally begins to kick in with the obscure, weird exotica of Vampyros Lesbos and “The Lions And The Cucumber” taken from a better, trashier time.  It sounds like a Serge Gainsbourg track from his Melody period.  With that before comedown can be achieved the very Beatle-esqe “Porpoise Song” by The Monkees drops into the mix.  This was the band finding their own voice at the end of a long line of stimulants.  Drawn out and psychedelic is serves as a good gateway/pathway to “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane which appears off the back of its appearance in Platoon.  Finally in this section “Venus In Furs” by the Velvet Underground serves to solidly mark the mind.  Sadly the credibility of the track here is slightly tarnished by the fact it is only present through appearing in a Dunlop Tyres advertisement.  That said the pounding drums, lurching strings and twisted words of Lou Reed on this track will never grow old.

David Lynch’s influence makes a brief appearance as “Be Bop A Lula” by Gene Vincent appears off the back of its part in Wild At Heart.  It always sounded like a Elvis knock off to me.  “Green Onions” by Booker T And The MGs then arrives to sooth the scenery.

With this we arrive at the real reason I purchased this CD: “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen.  For years this was the great lost song in our scene.  We knew it but couldn’t find it in any record shops even though it kept appearing in so many movies including the amazing Animal House, the decent Coupe De Ville and the odd Quadrophenia.  In many ways this is the most perfect song in history.  Often it is the first song you learn to play when you first get a guitar.  And it is so blissfully sloppy.  It arrives here associated with the aforementioned National Lampoon’s Animal House in which is plays the ultimate in party roles as a heroic room of loser drunkards with personalities in reach of the viewer dance and celebrate while chanting along.  It’s a perfect moment.

From here the compilation closes out and peters off with a selection of instrumentals.  “Bring Down The Birds” by Herbie Hancock from Blow Up arrives seemingly based solely on being the baseline from “Groove Is In The Heart”.

The harmonica drive of the “Theme From Northern Exposure” by David Schwartz offers a smile and some joy as to hear the song play out for a full three minutes is an odd experience, as equally strange as using such Caribbean music for a show set in Alaska.

The duffest note occurs next as “Duelling Banjos” from Deliverance appears in the tracklist.  Who the fuck wants to listen to that?  Did you know the performers were Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell?  More importantly, did you care?  This is buggery.

Returning to television “Suicide Is Painless” by Johnny Mandel (incorrectly credited as Jamie Mandel) from M*A*S*H offers a late slash.  I always found it strange that this song had words.  For a while I even thought that the Manic Street Preachers had come up with them.  Just what connects these sad words to the Korean War remains something of a mystery to me.

A real gem arrives in the penultimate spot with the haunting Jevetta Steele track “Calling You” from the movie Bagdad Café (as opposed to the TV series).  The inclusion of this track shows somebody somewhere selecting the songs for this record knew what they were doing.  This is truly an obscure gem.

Then with that the CD plays out with “Cavatina” from the John Williams’ orchestrated Deer Hunter score appearing as if backing a set of imaginary closing credits.

This was a funny fucking compilation.

Thesaurus moment: stratagem.